U.S. News & World Report ranks UST in ‘America’s Best Colleges’ survey

U.S. News & World Report magazine again has ranked the University of St. Thomas in the third tier of its National Universities category in the magazine’s 2010 "America’s Best Colleges" survey.

U.S. News announced the rankings today, Aug. 20. They will be available in the publication’s newsstand book, America’s Best Colleges, and in the September issue of U.S. News & World Report. Both should be available on local newsstands early next week.

Last year St. Thomas also was listed in the third tier of the National Universities category, with schools ranked 134th to 188th and not ranked numerically. This year the third tier includes schools ranked 134th to 190th.

St. Thomas also appears on two other published lists:

  • A Strong Commitment to Teaching: St. Thomas ranks No. 11 among 19 schools in the National Universities category "singled out most often when experts were asked to identify schools where the faculty has an unusual commitment to undergraduate teaching." The magazine identified the institutions in its peer assessments.
  • Most Debt: The magazine surveyed the debt load of class of 2008 graduates. In the National Universities category, St. Thomas was No. 8 with an average of $34,869 among the 68 percent of graduates who incurred debt. Last year, St. Thomas ranked No. 11, and two years ago, No. 12. This year University of Hartford (Connecticut) graduates had the highest average debt, $38,852, in the National Universities category. Three other Minnesota schools -- St. Mary's University of Minnesota ($33,639), the College of St. Scholastica ($36,075) and Concordia University ($33,775) – also appeared on "Most Debt" lists in their categories.

This is the ninth year that U.S. News has classified St. Thomas in the National Universities category. Prior to 2001, St. Thomas was ranked among Midwest regional universities. The reclassification occurred because of the number of doctorates that St. Thomas confers.

U.S. News’ ranking system relies on selected indicators of academic quality: peer assessment, retention and graduation rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving. Below are St. Thomas data of interest in these categories:

  • Peer assessment (25 percent of overall score): Our score was 2.4 (on a 1-5 scale, with 5 highest), the same as last year.
  • Retention (20 percent): This indicator includes six-year graduation rate and freshman retention rate. Our graduation rate (72 percent) is up from 71 percent last year, and our retention rate (88 percent) remains the same.
  • Graduation rate performance (5 percent): This indicator, tied to the previous one, shows the effect of programs and policies on the graduation rate of students after controlling for spending and student characteristics such as the proportion receiving Pell grants and test scores. The difference is measured between a school’s six-year graduation rate for the class that entered in 2002 and the predicted rate for the class. Our predicted rate for 2008 was 68 percent and our actual was 72 percent, meaning we "overperformed." St. Thomas has had similar "overperformance" scores over the last five years.
  • Faculty resources (20 percent): Several factors from the 2008-09 academic year are used to assess a school’s commitment to instruction: class size, faculty salaries, the proportion of professors with the highest degree in their fields, student-faculty ratio and proportion of faculty who are full time. The magazine didn’t provide statistics for all of the factors, so it is not possible at this time to give actual comparisons for this indicator.
  • Student selectivity (15 percent): Test-score averages for entering students remained about the same. The percentage of freshmen in the top 10 percent of their high school class (2008) is lower, 20 percent, than was reported last year (21 percent). Our acceptance rate, 81 percent, was higher than the previous year (73 percent).
  • Financial resources (10 percent): This indicator measures the average spending per student on instruction, research, student services and related educational expenditures in FY07 and FY08. Comparative data were not provided.
  • Alumni giving (5 percent): Our giving rate – the average percentage of undergraduate alumni who gave to St. Thomas during FY06 and FY07 – remained at 15 percent this year. In recent years it has ranged between 13 and 16 percent.

There are 262 American universities (164 public and 98 private) in the National Universities category. These schools offer a wide range of undergraduate majors as well as master’s and doctoral degrees. Harvard was No. 1, followed by Princeton and Yale. The only other Minnesota schools in this category were the University of Minnesota, tied for No. 61 and tied for No. 22 among the Top 50 National Public Universities, and St. Mary’s University of Minnesota (Winona), which moved into the third tier this year.

Numerically ranked Catholic universities in this category were Notre Dame (t-20), Georgetown (t-23), Boston College (34), Fordham (t-61), Marquette (t-84), St. Louis University (t-88), San Diego and Dayton (t-110), Loyola of Chicago (t-119), Catholic University and University of San Francisco (t-121), and Duquesne (t-128).

Other Catholic universities (in addition to St. Thomas and St. Mary's University of Minnesota) listed in the third tier of the National Universities category were DePaul in Illinois, Seton Hall in New Jersey and St. John’s in New York.

U.S. News has three other institutional categories:

Liberal Arts Colleges: These 265 liberal arts colleges emphasize undergraduate education and award at least half their degrees in the arts and sciences. Following No. 1 Amherst were Minnesota’s Carleton (8), Macalester (29), St. Olaf (t-49), St. John’s (t-68) and St. Benedict and Gustavus Adolphus (t-80). Concordia-Moorhead and the University of Minnesota-Morris are both in the third tier.

Universities-Master’s: These 572 universities are ranked in four geographic regions and provide a full range of undergraduate and master’s programs but few, if any, doctoral programs. In the Midwest, Creighton was No. 1, and Minnesota schools were Hamline (9), Bethel (14), St. Catherine (17), Augsburg (23), St. Scholastica (t-24), University of Minnesota-Duluth (t-36), Winona State (t-47) and Bemidji State (t-71). Concordia-St. Paul, Mankato, Moorhead, Southwest Minnesota State and St. Cloud State were listed in the third tier, and Metro State was in the fourth.

Baccalaureate Colleges: These 319 colleges are ranked in four regions and focus on undergraduate education; they award less than half of their degrees in the liberal arts. Minnesota’s Northwestern was 17th in the Midwest; Crown, North Central and U of M-Crookston were in the third tier; Bethany Lutheran was in the fourth.